U.S. broadcaster DISH Network has already booked a string of successes against pirate IPTV services this year, securing millions of dollars in damages.
A few days ago, another victory was added to the list when a district court in Texas issued a default judgment against local resident Yahya Alghafir.
Super Arab IPTV
The case began in 2020 when Dish filed a complaint against four defendants. In addition to Alghafir and his company Texas Communication and Technology LLC, the lawsuit also targeted a pair of Chinese corporations, Street Cat Technology and Jiemao Technology.
The Texas resident stood accused of selling the IPTV service “Super Arab IPTV” or “Super IPTV” through a variety of vendors, including Amazon and Walmart. Dish claimed that the service infringed its rights, as it included rebroadcasts of protected Al Arabiya, Al Jazeera Arabic News, and CBC channels.
In an attempt to stop this copyright-infringing activity, Dish sent repeated takedown notices to all parties involved, including Amazon and Walmart, but the sales continued nonetheless.
The defendants all played unique roles. The IPTV service was offered by Street Cat Technology, but Jiemao, Alghafir and his company were seen as key intermediaries who helped to make the service available in the United States.
$2.1m Default Judgment
After the defendants failed to answer the complaint, Dish requested a default judgment. This was granted by U.S. District Court Judge George C. Hanks, Jr. who finds Street Cat liable for direct copyright infringement. The other defendants are seen as contributory infringers.
“Alghafir, TCT, and Jiemao are contributorily liable for copyright infringement because they served as the intermediary between third parties who directly infringe DISH’s exclusive distribution and public performance rights and Super Arab IPTV users, who became a necessary component of the infringement – the audience.”
The court further agrees to a maximum statutory damages award for copyright infringement, a total of $2,100,000 for which the defendants are jointly and severally liable.
“This amount consists of $150,000 for each of the 14 registered, copyrighted works that DISH owns and that Defendants willfully and maliciously infringed by transmitting and providing access to without authorization on the Super Arab IPTV service,” the order reads.
The ‘jointly and severally’ part is important because full damages can be recouped from any defendant. Dish may have a hard time collecting from the two Chinese companies so Alghafir may have to pay a bigger share.
The court order comes with a broad permanent injunction that will provide ammunition for Dish to go after others who attempt to sell the same IPTV service. Specifically, it prohibits all dealers, distributors, and retailers from offering Super Arab IPTV set-top boxes.
The injunction also prohibits CDN providers and hosting companies from doing business with the IPTV service. In addition, domain name registries, including Verisign, are ordered to disable associated domain names including superarabiptv.com, iptvarab.com and superarabiptv.net.
As far as we can see, these domain names haven’t been active in a while, but the order is still a win for Dish and its partners, which includes the International Broadcaster Coalition Against Piracy (IBCAP).
IBCAP’s anti-piracy lab and NAGRA assisted with evidence collection in this case. According to IBCAP executive director Chris Kuelling, the court order should act as a clear deterrent for operators and sellers of pirate IPTV services.
“An award of more than $2 million against an individual residing in Texas reinforces our repeated message to dealers of pirate services — participating in copyright infringement by selling pirate services is not worth the risk,” Kuelling says.
“We will enforce this order against dealers of the Super Arab service, non-parties associated with Super Arab, and the transfer of domains critical to the operation of the service.”
A copy of the final judgment issued by U.S. District Court Judge George C. Hanks, Jr. is available here (pdf)